HL Deb 27 October 1994 vol 558 cc643-86

3.32 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 1:

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause:

("Interim committee

.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State shall establish an interim committee with the power to consider, and as it deems appropriate to approve, applications for grant aid from voluntary organisations in good standing funded by existing councils in 1995 whose funding applications to existing councils for the year 1996–97 and/or to new councils for the year 1997–98 have been refused or delayed. (2) The committee shall number not less than five and not more than seven members chosen from among people with knowledge and experience of the voluntary sector, at least two of whom shall be chosen from a list drawn up by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and at least one of whom shall be chosen from a list drawn up by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with a convener appointed by the Secretary of State. (3) The committee shall operate from an appropriate date in 1995 to an appropriate date in 1997 as determined by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the last session we shall have on this Bill. I am sure that we have all enjoyed it in different ways. I feel that had we not been so close to the finishing tape of this Session the Minister and his noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate would have been much more forthcoming in our debates. I have a sneaking feeling that they are as enthusiastic about the Bill as the rest of the House.

Amendment No. 1 is a matter that we have already raised. It concerns the voluntary organisations in Scotland which will be in somewhat of a hiatus during the period before the existing bodies are totally absorbed into the new set-up. I hope therefore that the Minister can say a little more than he said to us at Committee stage.

At that time—before the Summer Recess—the noble and learned Lord may remember that, along with Opposition colleagues, he met a number of people to discuss the transitional funding for voluntary authorities. In replying to the debate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, said that he was aware of the anxieties of the voluntary sector and that he and his colleagues were examining the SCVO proposal to ring-fence local authority funding for voluntary organisations during the transitional period. I emphasise that point because I do not believe that the ring-fencing of funding is necessarily a good thing. There should always be the opportunity to review.

The Scottish Office was considering the proposal. Is the Minister any closer to giving us a decision on his thinking? He kindly sent me a copy of a letter he sent to Mr. Kent of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations on 7th August. He said that he was grateful to Mr. Kent for his comments on the figure of £100 million quoted by myself. He said also that during the debate he was mindful of SCVO's concern for the voluntary organisations. In the letter he gave a half promise that once the level of discretionary funding was known and when the existing authorities informed their shadow successors of the actual discretionary grants paid by them to voluntary organisations, which he expected to be round July or August next year, he would be able to give a response. Is there any hope that he can give us a decision a little earlier than that? Some of the voluntary organisations are doing wonderful work on a shoestring and to lose the possibility of their funding from the Government or from the local authorities as it is at present, would be extremely serious to them, their employees and to the many people they help. I hope therefore that the Minister can give us a little more encouragement than he was able to give us last time. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I must make it clear at the outset that we are not discussing any contribution that government make to voluntary organisations in Scotland under various statutory provisions. I want to make it clear also that the Government greatly value the important role played by the voluntary sector and volunteers within our society. We have already acknowledged that the reorganisation of local government has important implications for voluntary organisations. We are anxious that any disruption should be minimised. We want the voluntary sector to be well placed to capitalise upon the increased opportunities for partnership with local authorities by playing a greater role in the delivery of services to the new unitary authorities.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations met Allan Stewart on 4th March 1994 and made a very constructive presentation about the effects on voluntary organisations of local government reorganisations and suggested a series of actions which he might consider.

At that meeting he agreed that there was a need for successor authorities to be made aware clearly of the levels of funding devoted by the existing local authorities to voluntary organisations. He therefore undertook that a direction would be made under Clause 56(5) requiring the existing authorities to inform shadow authorities of all funding which is given to voluntary organisations by means of a grant, service agreement or contract. That direction will ensure that the shadow and subsequent successor authorities are aware of the full extent of the existing authorities' funding of voluntary organisations and the level and purpose, in particular, of annual discretionary grants. Additionally, guidance will be given to the new authorities in their shadow phase on the key role of the voluntary sector and the importance of avoiding disruption and delay in decision making. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations will be consulted in the drawing up of this direction and guidance.

Given the view that we have of local government it would seem to us right to leave a measure of discretion to authorities. They are to be presumed to act responsibly. The noble Lord is right that in Committee other suggestions were made about how the voluntary sector might be protected. It was suggested that there might be some ring-fencing arrangement. It was proposed that the total amount paid by local authorities to voluntary bodies by means of annual discretionary grants should be so protected. We looked closely at that proposal during the summer but I have had to conclude that such a proposal is really too difficult to operate and would again conflict with the role of the new authorities. For example, it would be very difficult to define the voluntary organisations to be within the ring fencing.

The noble Lord had little to say about the proposal within the amendment. We would be reluctant to see anything along the lines of that proposal introduced. It would effectively mean a central committee appointed by the Secretary of State, a rather startling proposition at a time when every effort is made to suggest that fewer people should be engaged in quangos appointed by the Secretary of State. Furthermore, the committee would be second guessing local authorities on grant applications and it would have an opportunity to override the views of local councillors as to how some part of the council tax which was collected might be spent. If it is analysed in that way I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate why we have fundamental objections to such an approach.

However, I hope that the reassurance I have given him will also reassure the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the individual voluntary organisations that we very much support their participation with local authorities in the good government of Scotland in all the areas and services which local authorities are required to deliver. The direction and guidance will be clearly given before any local government reform is implemented.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I thank the Minister for what is basically a helpful reply. When I spoke about the committee, I was not talking about a quango. I made clear that it should be an interim committee for the period in which the arrangements are in limbo. I thoroughly agree with the Minister that local authorities should at least have a fair say about what should be done with local voluntary organisations in their area. Whatever the Scottish Office may do. there should always be some control from local authorities. They know the people and the organisations. They know the work that is being done. I can at least thank the Minister for his efforts and good will. The voluntary organisations may take some comfort from what he said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford moved Amendment No. 2

Before Clause 62, insert the following new clause:

("New water and sewerage authorities

.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section the functions of the existing local authorities immediately before 1st April 1996 as water and sewerage authorities shall be carried out on and after that date by the councils established in terms of Part 1 of this Act. (2) For the purposes of the functions referred to in subsection (1) of this section, the Secretary of State shall, before the commencement of this Act, by order make amalgamation schemes amalgamating the local authority areas mentioned in the second column of the table below into the combined areas mentioned in the first column of that table.

Combined Areas Local Authority Areas
Eastern The Borders, Clackmannan, City of Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and Stirling.
Western Argyll and Bute, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Dumbarton and Clydebank, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, City of Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire.
Northern City of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, City of Dundee, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Perthshire and Kinross, Shetland Islands and Western Isles.
(3) The provisions of sections 62A and 62C of the 1973 Act shall apply to a Joint Board established by an Order made under this Schedule as they apply to a Joint Board established by an order made under the said section 62A. (4) Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding subsection, the membership of the joint boards established under this section shall consist wholly of councillors elected to the authorities established under Part 1 of this Act within the areas of the joint boards.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 11 to 14. I make no apology for returning to what for us and for the vast majority of the people of Scotland has been a central issue in this Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill; namely, the future of the water and sewerage industry in Scotland. Amendment No. 2 and Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 deal with a variety of issues. Amendment No. 2 defines the local authorities that would make up the three water boards which the Government are determined to establish under the legislation. The other amendments deal with the increase from 11 to 13 of the number of members on the boards. They deal also with the provision in the legislation that the Secretary of State will appoint the chairman and vice-chairman of the water authorities and propose instead that the board itself should appoint the chairman and vice-chairman. They further propose that the water authority meetings should be open to the public. Finally, and absolutely of crucial importance to the people of Scotland, they propose that those who are on the water authorities should be democratically elected councillors.

When we discussed the matter in Committee our amendment proposed to create not three but six water authorities. When we realised that that was not acceptable to the Government we gave notice that we would return to the issue at Third Reading. The Minister can deny it if he will, but I suspect that he will not, that more than 90 per cent. of the people of Scotland are opposed to the Government's proposals for the future of the water and sewerage industry throughout Scotland. If evidence were required I need only refer to the referendum carried out by Strathclyde Regional Council. In an absolutely astonishing response, there was an equally astonishing and overwhelming majority of respondents against the Government's proposals.

The water and sewerage industry in Scotland has been in the hands of local authorities for more than 150 years. No one can argue that it has not been well managed. It has been brilliantly managed, to put it mildly. Before any of your Lordships compare the situation in England and Wales with the situation in Scotland, I should like to point out that the situation in England and Wales is by no means comparable. Water in England and Wales was never under local authority control. Water in England and Wales was always under joint boards. That is not true in Scotland. What we see here is the beginning—here, again, the Minister can deny it if he will, but the people of Scotland do not believe otherwise—of privatisation.

There are many inside the Minister's party in Scotland who are opposed to the Bill. The membership of his party is a diminishing band because of the Bill. There are many among those still in the Conservative Party in Scotland who are opposed to the Bill. They see it as the beginning of privatisation. The allegation has been laid at our door that we have been disseminating false information to the people of Scotland either through the Strathclyde referendum or through our public arguments. Perhaps I may leave this thought with your Lordships. There are now 33 information officers and people working in the Scottish Information Office on behalf of the Government—three information officers for every Conservative MP in Scotland! When I was a Minister, albeit some time ago, we had eight or nine people working in the Scottish Information Office. But the Government have the nerve to say that they cannot get their message across to the people of Scotland because we are giving false information. Three information officers for every Conservative MP in Scotland is not bad going. If the Government have failed on that basis it is because the people of Scotland have seen through what they are trying to do.

At Question Time yesterday in another place the Minister, Allan Stewart, was asked about water bills. He refused to give an assurance that the charges for water and sewerage in Scotland would not rise to the English levels. Those noble Lords who live in England and Wales know perfectly well what a massive increase has taken place in charges to the consumer because of the privatisation of water in England and Wales. There can be no shadow of doubt that that story will be repeated in Scotland under the proposals presented by the Government in the Bill. I shall merely be repeating the argument if I continue with it. It is all right for the noble Baroness to say, "Hear, hear", and dismiss it as if it were not important. But that is running the risk of ignoring the views of 90 per cent. of the people of Scotland. I say with great respect to the noble Baroness that that is a very dangerous risk to run.

I come now to democratic accountability. I played some part in the passage of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill through your Lordships' House which was intended to cover England and Wales. We had this argument in relation to the democratic accountability of the police authorities in England and Wales. The Minister was forced to concede the point that the police authorities would be made up not of people appointed by the Home Secretary but of people elected by the local electors. I say to those Members of your Lordships' House now present who voted against their Government on that occasion to ensure that democratically elected councillors made up the police authorities that this is the same argument. What we want is that when the water authorities are established they should be made up entirely of local, democratically elected councillors.

There has been much talk of quangos. I say to your Lordships that this is the first example that we have had in Scotland of democratically elected councillors being replaced by a quango. All the other quangos relating to the health service, health boards and enterprise trusts have never been elected. But water has always been under the control of democratically elected councillors. This is the first and most dangerous example we have yet seen of where democracy is being withdrawn and dictatorship introduced. It is simply not acceptable. The Minister must know that if the Government persist with this intention they will be made to pay dearly for it by the people of Scotland.

Before I close perhaps I may make the position of the Labour Party in Scotland perfectly clear. We shall not nominate people to serve on the water authorities, nor shall we encourage any of our people to accept a position with those authorities for the very good and simple reason that we shall not encourage people to replace democratically elected councillors. Just in case the noble and learned Lord is tempted to quote the fact that his friend Ian Lang asked CoSLA to give him nominations and it has not yet responded, the truth of the matter is that, when CoSLA asked the Secretary of State for an assurance that if it made nominations those persons would be nominated to the boards, he point blank refused to give any such assurance. One can draw only one conclusion from that; namely, that the nominations would be a waste of time and that at the end of the day the person making these appointments will be none other than the Secretary of State.

I close with this comment because it is a very serious matter. All this Bill does is to turn Scotland into quango-land. As a result of this Bill there are now something like six additional quangos to be established, and that is simply not acceptable. After this Act is introduced it will be the astonishing fact that the 2.5 million electors in Scotland will have the right to elect only 1,000 councillors but that one person, Mr. Ian Lang, will have the right to appoint 10,000 people. Surely no one in your Lordships' House is going to argue that that is an acceptable position. Even at this late stage—I am not ashamed to plead—I plead with the Minister to accept these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing. The Minister may say that this is a Second Reading speech, but the whole of the Bill is permeated with the fact that it is unacceptable to the majority of people in Scotland. My name is down to some of these amendments and I support them in order to try to limit the damage. I am supported in this by the Minister's rejection of my amendments to the effect that it would be sensible in Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles, which are widely separated by wild seas, to leave the existing water and sewerage authorities alone or set them up under a new name, because it does not matter which.

They have been working well. They have improved on the previous system and it appears to me to be utterly bonkers —if I may borrow that phrase—to place them under the control of a central authority. We now suggest in this amendment three authorities, but the situation will remain the same. The people at the headquarters in Perth or Aberdeen—wherever it is—will decide exactly what is needed. Up to now people in the island communities have controlled their own affairs with competence and certainly more cheaply than a central authority will.

The Minister has cited the amount of money that it would cost in individual cases, particularly in the Western Isles, but that money has to be spent anyhow. I can guarantee that money would be saved by local people as against any central authority. I support these amendments very much as a second best in that at least the people manning the authorities would have some chance, if they were locally elected councillors, of understanding the conditions under which they were supposed to operate and the people they were supposed to serve. As a second best, I support the amendments. I suppose that normally in his private life the Minister is an amiable man, as indeed he is, but in this case I believe that the Government have gone sadly wrong and that they are going to make a complete mess of it which will need to be cleared up by somebody else.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I must show something of the other side of this argument. First and foremost, it is regrettable that, with all the work which has gone into the amendments standing in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael, Lord Ewing and Lord Mackie, they have not taken into consideration the very important wording of Schedule 8. I refer in particular to the little words, "the first, second and third added areas". That is particularly the case as regards the county of Kinross which has always drained its water and sewerage to the south and not to the north as Amendment No. 2 would suggest. These are technical but very important matters.

Furthermore, as has already been said in your Lordships' House, in the provisions of Schedule 7 which concern the other amendments which are being discussed, it is the Government's intention, quite rightly, that the persons appointed to the new water or sewerage authorities shall be persons with the very greatest experience and knowledge of both water and sewerage. That is vitally important.

As already stated in your Lordships' House, in order for Scotland to come up to the full European standards £5 billion will need to be spent, particularly on sewerage. The population of Scotland is only 5 million. It is to meet those standards and for the services to be able to borrow money—not necessarily through local authority funds—that the new water and sewerage authorities need to be properly established and properly financed.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell me from where the persons to be appointed will gain their knowledge of water and sewerage?

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I understand that they are to be appointed by the Secretary of State and that he can choose whom he likes. He will obviously choose people who have experience in that area. That is as I understand it.

4 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I accept that substantial investment will be called for in future years to provide an adequate water and sewerage system in Scotland. I visited Thames Water plc the other day. It has embarked on an immense capital expenditure programme on the new ring sewerage system around London. The expenditure is massive.

I have never understood why accepting social responsibility for a good water and sewerage system and the massive capital investment that is involved necessarily means that you must inevitably transfer it to some private enterprise quango. There does not seem to be any logical justification for taking those services out of the public sector and out of local authority control.

I regard this discussion at this very late stage of the Bill's progress as of historic importance. I was a member of Glasgow City Council when I was a boy—I was the youngest city councillor in the history of that great city. Once a year, members of Glasgow Corporation went off on the "water trip". It was a social but important occasion. We travelled down to Loch Katrine—a most beautiful sight. We sailed up Loch Katrine to ensure that the city's water supply was still available and that the pipeline which led from Loch Katrine back to Glasgow was in good shape. In my study at home I have a picture of one of those water trips. My father is in the middle of the photograph.

The water supply of Glasgow was provided by the great merchants. They were people of considerable foresight but with little political commitment to a particular dogma. That is not the case with the present Government. Those people foresaw the future development of the great city of Glasgow. They decided that it was necessary to provide an adequate water supply for the citizens so that the area might prosper and the citizens be provided with a pure water supply. It was never discussed whether the merchants in Glasgow would meet together and invest privately in that great enterprise. They simply said, "Water is an essential and basic need for the people. Therefore, the people should own and run their water supply". That does not mean that every city councillor was an expert on water and sewerage but that decision made it possible for the city to employ people to run the system. Basically, however, control of the service was in the hands of the local authority. Like health care, the water supply is a basic necessity and a community interest.

However, the situation is changing dramatically. People in Glasgow were proud of their water supply. I remember a chap who used to bottle it and sell it to America as part of a "pure water" enterprise. I believe that Jimmy Logan had an interest in one of the companies at one time. The water was so good and its supply so efficiently managed that it was possible to put it in a bottle and export it. We were proud of Glasgow's water. The service was well run and efficient. The oversight of the city council was sensible.

Why should we depart from the important obligation of running a community service such as the water supply? That is what we are talking about today. I do not think that we should take this step. However, I am not doctrinaire about the question of private enterprise versus state capitalism. That argument is dead. Although I think that we should run things as well and as efficiently as possible and in the interests of the country as a whole, I believe that the water supply should remain in the public sector.

People may ask, "How can you get investment for such a great new enterprise given all the obligations that will be imposed on our water systems by the European Community?" But there is no reason why the Treasury cannot make the appropriate adjustments to enable a public body to receive the investment that is necessary for such an enterprise. Treasury rules could provide the opportunity for higher investment levels to be achieved. There is no reason to assume that we have to run to the market to get people to invest so that they may realise a profit at the end of the day by supplying water to the people of Scotland.

As has been said, the Minister is an amiable man. I suggest to him that this is a very important and historic step. Before we take it, I must advise him that the people of Scotland have delivered their judgment. They do not want it. In the face of that opposition it is quite incredible to me that we should impose this step on them.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

My Lords, I wish to support the amendment. There is a clear desire in Scotland for local democratic control of the provision of water and sewerage services. This most fundamental of services should be owned and controlled by the consumer. The investment which is undoubtedly needed to repair and extend the existing provision will in any case have to be paid for by the consumers. The possibility of secrecy in the three future water boards and the consequent lack of local accountability is unacceptable.

However, it is on the subject of the possibility of domestic water disconnections, which are prevalent in England, that I should like to focus. I believe that the people of Scotland have a basic right to water and sewerage provision. I am therefore seeking an assurance from the Minister that there will be no possibility of domestic disconnections by the new water boards.

During a 20-year career in social work, I have visited too many homes where the gas or electricity has been cut off, bringing the home to a virtual standstill as a place in which to bring up children. While the inability to pay for water may be seen as adult mismanagement of income, the consequences upon the children are appalling and unnecessary. I do not want to see hosepipes running from neighbouring homes in the same way as electric cables are sometimes used to carry a neighbour's power supply.

What better source of alienation and disaffection could a government provide to children, especially teenagers from the poorest of homes? What sort of message would it be about a supposedly caring society when the supply is cut off by agents of official society? Disaffection contributes to vandalism and criminality.

Related to disconnection is the provision of meters and pre-payment meters. While the latter may appear to be attractive for poorer homes, they often amount to weekly partial disconnections and also generate the miserable possibilities of housebreaking and theft. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the Scottish people that there will be no possibility of disconnection from the water supply.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I was not going to say anything. We have rehearsed all the old arguments on this matter. On Report the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, was reporting to the House on the referendum on the so-called privatisation of water that the Strathclyde region had carried out, and I asked him how much the people of Strathclyde knew about the present system and how much about the planned system, and how they knew to choose between them. He told me that the people of the West of Scotland knew in their bones that they did not want their water taken away from them. That is about it. That has been the theme of the discussion going on across Scotland. We have heard that reiterated this afternoon.

Times have changed. It is not as it was when Glasgow councillors used to go to see the loch and the supply and plan for the future. It is not as it was in Angus when we went to Lyntrathen Loch and did the same thing. It is not like that now. We have an enormous industry. Enormously high standards are required for water and sewerage in Scotland. There is a need for huge investment. How can noble Lords think that 13 different councils can be represented on a board and agree to run a huge industry in the part of Scotland that includes Argyll and Bute, Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and the rest? They suggest 10 councils on the Eastern Board and 11 councils on the Northern Board. I cannot imagine how they think that those councillors— politicians—will be able to do the job that has to be done under the Bill.

This is not a privatisation measure. I agree that the privatisation argument is now dead. It is a dead horse which even the Labour Party will stop flogging, as I understand Mr. Blair. This is not about privatisation. The people of Scotland will have three public sector boards made up of people equipped to do this enormous job. The people have been enormously misled by the argument. Some of them understand, but I am sure that they do not all understand. The boards are public sector boards which will achieve the very best for the people of Scotland out of the wonderful water that they have.

I do not have the smallest doubt that Strathmore Springs, which operates from Forfar and whose beautiful water we all drink in the House, all over London, and all over the country, will find that it obtains a better and not a worse service in this way. I mind about that very much. The whole thing is pure party politics. It has nothing to do with what is best for Scotland and what is best for water. I hope that your Lordships will reject the amendment once again.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her clear explanation of the situation. The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, laughs, but if he would like to reflect upon what his noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe had to say, when he reads it in Hansard, he will find that the noble Lord said that there will be people in the private sector profiting from the delivery of water services. With all respect to the noble Lord, that is not what is proposed in the Bill. There will be three public authorities delivering to Scotland not just water but also sewerage.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that he was proud of Glasgow's water and of the beauties of Loch Katrine. I share his view on both matters. I believe that he would have been slightly more hesitant before saying that he was proud of the state of the beaches on the Clyde, because what is required there to bring us up to our national and now to international standards are levels of investment that are truly massive. We do not propose that that should be achieved by the privatisation of water in Scotland, although I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that an ample number of pamphlets went out from the Labour Party all over Strathclyde saying, "Say no to privatisation". That was not what we had proposed.

We are concerned to see the efficient delivery of water and sewerage services. They employ about 6,000 people in Scotland. They deliver water to some 2 million households and ensure the supply of over 2 million cubic metres of water every day. It is our duty to ensure that we get the structure which can manage an industry of that scale with the greatest of efficiency possible. It will also need to maximise the contribution which private sector funding can make to its financing, as the necessary investment over the next 10 years or so will be in the order of some £5 billion. I share the desire that the bills the water consumers in Scotland will pay be kept to the minimum. It accordingly seems to me to be only right that the Government should have examined the issue to see what was the best way in which that investment could be secured at the cheapest possible price. This has been our conclusion. I am bound to say that both in this House and in another I have not heard any argument advanced to suggest that that funding could be achieved more cheaply.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, returned to his theme of the islands. I must repeat—again it is important in the context of whether those people in Scotland have received the correct information—in Scotland the average Band D household pays £132 for water. In the Western Isles of Scotland the average household pays something like £306. If the Western Isles are to be held in the northern authority, as we believe they should be, far from it being a disadvantage to them, it will be a substantial advantage. Because if they were, as it were, to go it alone, the water bills individual households in the Western Isles would have to pay would be double those of elsewhere in the northern authority. If one went up to the Orkney Isles it would be 50 per cent. more, so we believe, that the three public water authorities approach is the right one.

I regret having heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that despite the offer made by the Secretary of State to CoSLA, that it might put forward its nominations, CoSLA has decided that it will not offer him any names. If the noble Lord reflects upon the matter he will appreciate that he would not, while a Scottish Office Minister under any Secretary of State for Scotland, have handed over, as it were, the absolute right of appointment to CoSLA, but if it would like to reconsider that matter and put forward names of councillors the Secretary of State would be delighted to receive them because, as he has repeatedly said, it is our intention to see a substantial number of councils represented on the boards.

I have made the point before, and I shall make it briefly again. That seems to have been the nature of the debate. I understand why in local government in Scotland the convenership of the social work department has been important, and also the convenerships of police, housing and the like, but I am bound to say that I have never been aware of there being any particularly acute conflict or competition for the convenership of the water and sewerage committees. There have been conflicts and battles to secure other appointments.

I agree with my noble friend Lady Carnegy that there has been a hyping up of the argument beyond the real concerns of the people of Scotland. What they want is to get pure water to their homes. Under these arrangements they will get it. They want also to ensure that their beaches and rivers are, if not the cleanest in Europe, certainly up there among the best. That will take massive investment. That is what these proposals are intended to achieve. I believe that if they had had the position coldly and lucidly explained to them they would have appreciated, both in terms of price and of the services to be delivered to them, that what the Government propose is a substantial improvement.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, before the Minister sits down will he say what proportion of the 11 members of the board will be considered a substantial majority of councillors?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, a substantial number is a substantial number. The Secretary of State has been lured on that issue previously and the noble Lord will appreciate that we offer no formula. Unfortunately, in a fit of pique, if nothing else, CoSLA and the councillors whom we would wish to see participating appear to be declining to participate.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down again, will he address the point that we have been trying to make? Reluctantly, we have accepted that there will be these boards, but where are the people experienced to man them? There may be people from the industry who have a personal financial interest in it, but otherwise the only people who have experience are the councillors and the descendants of those who produced the huge capital expenditure required for Loch Katrine, Lintrathen and so forth. We are saying that if we accept the boards, it is far better to choose for them the people who represent the councils.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I have no doubt that as regards the three boards we shall be able to obtain a sufficient number of people with expertise to run the authorities. I have little doubt about that I am far more worried about an issue that was raised by my noble friend Lady Carnegy. If the amendment were carried and there was a joint board, in some water authorities no fewer than 13 authorities would contribute. I seriously doubt whether that is a recipe for securing expertise in the delivery of these services—and I have sat down!

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, I never cease to be amazed by the noble and learned Lord's replies to the debates. Perhaps I may respond, not asking the Minister to rise again. I accept, and I am relieved, that he has sat down.

I listened to the noble Baroness and to the noble and learned Lord complaining that one of the boards listed in our amendment would have 13 elected councillors. I ask the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord to change their bedtime reading tonight and take a quiet look at the joint police board and the joint fire board in what is at present Strathclyde Regional Council. I hate to deflate them but they will see that there happen to be 13 elected councillors on the joint police board that will need to be established to administer the existing Strathclyde Region and there will need to be 13 elected councillors on the joint fire board. If we can have 13 elected councillors on each of those boards, why can we not have the same number as regards water authorities? What is so special about water that we cannot have 13 elected councillors to run the water and sewerage industry when, my goodness me, 13 elected councillors are totally suitable to run the police and fire services in one half of Scotland?

I can see that the noble Baroness has been thinking. Let us hear what she has to say.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, the noble Lord is getting rather carried away. Comparing what police and fire authorities have to do with running a water industry is a bit much. I think that he should just quieten down a bit.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, at times I expect far too much of the noble Baroness and I expect a much better intervention than that. The fire brigade will certainly need water to put out the fires, so that is one example that can be compared. But we will leave the matter. I believe that the noble Baroness strayed into the issue without thinking and I am generous enough to recognise that.

I turn now to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. My view is that the people of Kinross will not lose a minute's sleep worrying about whether the water and sewerage runs north or south but they will worry desperately about whether they can pay for it. That is what the amendment is all about. I and every member of the Labour Party accept that substantial sums of money must be spent. There are no "if's or "but"s about that. The argument is not about the amount of money that will be spent; it is about who invests and who at the end of the day will receive the benefit. The Government's position is that private individuals will receive the benefit. We believe that the local consumers, the people of Scotland, should receive the benefit.

I am always grateful to my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe for his lessons on municipalisation. The water and sewerage industry was at the birth of municipalisation. It was run in such a way because individuals could not install sewage disposal systems for themselves; it had to be done on a municipal basis. It is worth noting that even to this day when a big building contractor—for instance, Wimpey or Leech Homes— builds a housing estate in Scotland it will install a sewage disposal system, connect it to the main system and be paid for doing so by the local authority. The contractor does not pay because it is municipalisation. What will happen under these proposals?

The Government know that they have got this wrong. The people of Scotland have told them so until they are tired. But there are none so deaf as those who will not listen, and I wish to divide the House.

4.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 72; Not-Contents, 126.

Divison No.1
Airedale, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Annan, L. [Teller.]
Archer of Sandwell, L. Halsbury, E.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Birk, B. Haskel, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Bottomley, L. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Broadbridge, L. Hooson, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Howell, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Hughes, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Carter, L. Judd,L
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Kagan, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Kennet, L
Dahrendorf, L. Kilbracken, L.
David, B. Lockwood, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Dormand of Easington,L. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Dubs, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Elis-Thomas, L. Mar and Kellie, E. [Teller]
Ennals, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Falkland, V. Monkswell, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Gallacher, L. Nathan, L.
Gladwyn, L. Nicol, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Richard, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Strabolgi, L.
Rochester, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Sainsbury, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Seear, B. Tope, L.
Serota, B. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Shannon, E. White, B.
Shepherd, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Stallard, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E
Addison, V. Inglewood, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Kenyon, L.
Annaly, L. Killearn, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Kimball, L.
Arran, E. [Teller.] Kinnoull, E.
Ashbourne, L. Lauderdale, E.
Astor of Hever, L. Leigh, L.
Astor, V. Lindsay, E.
Balfour, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Birdwood, L. Lucas, L.
Blaker, L. Lyell, L.
Blatch, B. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mackay of Claslrfern, L. [Lord
Brabazon of Tara, L. Chancellor]
Buckinghamshire, E. Mancroft, L.
Butterworth, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Cadman, L. Merrivale, L.
Caldecote, V. Mersey, v.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Miller pf Hendon, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Milverton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Carnock, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Mottistone, L.
Chartens of Amisfield, L. Mountevans, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Clark of Kempston,L. Munster E
Coleraine, L. Nelson, E.
Courtown, E. Newall, L.
Craigavon, V.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Northesk, E.
Crathome,L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Crawshaw, L. Orkney, E.
Cross, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
Cumberlege, B. Oxfuird, V.
Davidson, V. Park of Monmouth, B.
Denham, L. Pender, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Perth, E.
Downshire,M. Platt of Writtle, B.
Dundonald, E. Pym, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Rankeillour, L.
Elibank, L. Rawlings, B.
Ellenborough, L. Reay, L.
Elles, B. Rees. L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Renton. L.
Elphinstone, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Faithfull, B. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Ferrers, E. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Finsberg, L. Seccombe, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gainford, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Geddes, L. Sudeley, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Terrington, L.
Goschen, V. Teviot, L.
Gray of Conlin, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Gray, L. Trumpington, B.
Grimthorpe, L Ullswater, V.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Harding of Petherton, L. Vivian, L.
Henley, L. Westbury, L.
Hood, V. Whitelaw, V.
Howe, E. Wigram, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.34 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 3:

After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:

("Chief Education Officer. 1980 c. 44

. For section 78 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (Appointment of director of education) there shall be substituted the following section—

"Chief Education Officer.

78.—(1) For the purposes of its functions under this Act, a local authority shall appoint an officer to be known as chief education officer.

(2) The qualifications of the chief education officer shall be such as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

(3) Subject to any amendment by this Act of any enactment, any reference in any enactment to the director of education shall be construed as a reference to the chief education officer appointed by a local authority for that purpose.

(4) In this section "enactment" means any enactment or instrument made under an enactment, whether passed or made before or after the coming into force of this section".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the question of whether there should be a director of education, or chief education officer if one does not like the nomenclature "director of education".

The Minister must be conscious of the fact that one of the strengths of the Scottish education system has been that there has always been professional input at every level. At national level it is provided by Her Majesty's Inspectorate; at local authority level the professional input is provided by directors of education; and at school level establishments are headed by qualified teachers rather than by managers with a background outwith education.

The management of the education service involves decisions relating to finance, property, personnel and other matters but that is all within the ambit of education. Obviously, accountants and other professional people who have a knowledge of administration will need to be appointed but traditionally the service has always comprised people with professional training in education.

Unlike many areas of public administration, there are few evident tensions in education between practitioners and administrators because the various professionals involved—directors, teachers, psychologists, advisers, pre-five staff, careers officers, community education staff, nursery nurses and so on—all share a common background and training in education.

The post of chief education officer is required to provide an informed perspective and professional advice to elected members and the general public on any educational issue. It is essential for the public to know that the person who speaks on those issues is a fully qualified teacher who has long experience in the field of education. The statutory nature of the chief education officer's employment will ensure a measure of independence from non-educational political pressure. In local government, there is always a certain amount of political pressure. In fact, conflict may often lead to progress being made. But together with statutory education committees, chief education officers constitute part of the system of checks and balances essential to democracy.

The professional nature of chief education officers will provide independent advice, coherence, continuity and strategic vision for elected members, parents and teachers from officers who are professionally informed and personally experienced in the field of education.

The Minister did go some way towards meeting our anxieties with regard to the office of director of social services. I hope that he will be able to do so again with this amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I felt that one of the faults in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 was that we had directors of planning, welfare, education and so on. I do not believe that that is necessary today.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. Since Second Reading this is, I believe, the third occasion on which we have gone over the arguments and I do not wish to rehearse those that I have used on previous occasions.

I merely wish to say to the Minister that the arguments that he used in declining the amendment on Report, to which I listened extremely carefully, were sufficiently weighty to justify the abolition of that historic post. It has a symbolism in Scottish education which is of very great importance. I believe that to bring about its abolition or at least to make it cease to be statutory undermines the general cause of education in Scotland.

The Minister said that there had been wide consultation on this matter and one of the justifications that he used to reject the amendment on Report was that five out of the 12 local authorities consulted had not indicated that they wished to retain the statutory post. I beg the Minister to reconsider this matter and perhaps consider adopting the view of the majority of the 12. He uses a narrow argument. The Minister showed willing with regard to the director of social services and I do not believe that the distinctions which he drew between the responsibilities of the person at the head of a local authority social services department and the person at the head of the educational work of the department were very strong. I join other speakers in asking the noble and learned Lord to consider whether he might not be as accommodating on the matter of the director of education as he was regarding the director of social work.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I believe that we are discussing a most important matter and I do not take issue at all with the fact that we are considering it again. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, indicated that he thought there was a need for a definition of the professional qualifications of the director of education. I think that I am right in saying that that does not exist at present. No doubt my noble and learned friend will put me right if I am wrong in that respect.

To my mind, the question at issue is the relationship between the decision that my noble and learned friend has taken about social work and the question of whether there should be a chief education officer. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, felt that that distinction was not that great. In view of the fact that schools will be largely making their own decisions and colleges are no longer the responsibility of the local authority, I believe that the actual role will change a good deal. The hands-on role of the chief education officer will be very different as time goes on to that of the present director of education. The role will be different but the statutory requirement is most important.

If my noble and learned friend is resisting the amendment, I hope that he will be able—as I believe he said that he would—to make the difference between the two jobs a little clearer to us. We must not get it wrong. The fact that the convention of local authorities is split on the matter is interesting. The argument is not about whether you have a director of education but whether you are forced to have one; in other words, whether you have the freedom to choose. Unless new evidence is produced to change my mind, I am inclined to think that such freedom is desirable. However, that is not to say that I think there will be many local authorities that do not have a chief education officer. Indeed, it seems to me that they are very likely to.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she tell the House whether she appreciates the fact that the statutory post of the chief education officer is being retained in England and Wales? It is not being done as a matter of choice; it is being retained in England and Wales because it is recognised that a suitably fit and experienced chief officer is required to take charge of the responsibilities of planning and the allocation of resources in education. It would be rather a throw-back if we in Scotland, who have led in education for so long, should break from the system which the English and the Welsh have decided, I believe for the first time, to retain.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments; but I am not sure that they are necessarily right.

The Earl of Minto

My Lords, I happen to be convener of one of the regions in Scotland which does not consider that it is necessary to have a statutory director of education or a chief education officer. I made my reasons for that known in Committee. I really have nothing to add to the comments that I made at that time. However, I believe that it would be improper if I did not say that we have not changed our view on the matter during the progress of the Bill.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, the weighty question is not whether there should be directors of education; it is whether this House, Parliament and the Government should compel the new councils to be established in Scotland to make such appointments. The new councils will be democratically elected and locally accountable. We believe that it should be left to them to determine what is best for their areas. If those who are in favour of having directors of education wish to have them after reorganisation—or for that matter education committees—it will be entirely a matter for them. It seems to me to be correct that that should be the position.

However, quite apart from the sanctions that might be applied at the ballot box, there are other control mechanisms which will operate as they do at present. For example, Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools and the Accounts Commission will fulfil the same roles in the future as at present.

Amendment No. 3 seeks to require a local authority to appoint a chief education officer with such qualifications as the Secretary of State may prescribe. In effect, it seeks to mirror for education what the Government's amendments on social work—by introducing a new requirement for a professionally qualified chief social work officer in every authority— intend to achieve in that field.

On Report, although I clearly did not satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, I explained that we believe there is a distinction to be drawn between education and social work. We have already heard that a number of the authorities in Scotland which have been consulted— and Borders is one of them-—did not want to have a director of education. I do not believe that it is necessary to repeat the details of the situation.

However, I think that it is worth noting that, while this has been described as an historic position in Scotland, the directors of education in Scotland are not required at present to have any professional qualifications. It is simply that the local authority, shall employ a director of education who shall … hold office on such reasonable terms and conditions as the authority think fit". If one looks to the responsibilities that a chief social work officer has to discharge, it is clearly a distinctive position, not least because a number of the responsibilities and duties imposed upon him are in relation to such matters as young people appearing before the courts or, in that most difficult circumstance of all, when a young person may be put into secure accommodation. It seems to me to be quite right that a separate set of duties should be imposed upon an individual.

Apart from the one provision that I have already mentioned, the only other one of which I am aware where statutory duties are presently assigned to a director of education is to be found under Section 5 of Schedule 2 to the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988. But even in those circumstances it is not a duty or an enabling power which is imposed simply on the director of education; indeed, it could be one enabling any officer of the education authority to attend the school board meetings.

Against that background, it would not seem right to us to impose such limitations upon the new authorities. I can only conclude by repeating our view. If, on the other hand, the new authority in the Borders wishes to change its mind and have a director of education, it will be entirely free to do so. However, if there are other authorities which wish to take a different route, that is a matter which should be left to be settled by their democratic wish.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. The noble and learned Lord said that there was no statutory requirement for a director of education in the Scottish educational atmosphere. Can the Minister tell us how many local authorities over the years have had a director of education with no qualifications who was thoroughly recognised and respected by his colleagues in the field?

The Minister made it very clear that it was open to local authorities whether they wished or required to appoint a director of education. All I can say is that we shall certainly encourage such appointments so that, if nothing else, it will keep the committees fully informed of the latest educational practice. It will also be a good channel of communication between the teaching staff and the committees. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 145 [Provision of school transport and other facilities]:

Lord Ewing of Kirkford moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 100, line 17, at end insert:

("( ) After Section 28A(3) (e) there shall be inserted—

(f) If, notwithstanding subsection (3) (a) to (e) above, the education authority, having regard to historical patterns of migration or existing planning permissions for residential development in their area, considers it necessary in exceptional circumstances to restrict admission to a stage of education at the specified school in order to secure the availability of places for pupils ordinarily resident within the delineated area of the specified school at any time during the school year, it may do so, provided that the education authority shall not so restrict admission beyond the minimum number of places reasonably anticipated by them as necessary for that purpose at any stage and that a statement of reasons is provided to any person whose placing has been refused on these grounds".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment deals with the retention of places in schools in anticipation of housing development. Where an education authority is convinced, as a result of planning applications and various other measures, that there will be development in a particular school's catchment area within, say, the next six months or a year, that education authority should have the power to restrict admission at certain levels of education for a limited period only to take account of the fact that a number of children will be moving into its area. I should make clear that the amendment does not in any way interfere with the placement legislation which the Government introduced some years ago.

There was a recent case in the Stirling area, at Balfron High School, where this kind of problem arose. As always, of course, the local Member of Parliament, Michael Forsyth, wanted the best of all worlds. He attacked Central Region for not spending money to extend Balfron High School while at the same time the Scottish Office was telling Central Region that it was not getting any money to extend the school. Michael Forsyth could have been saved that trouble if the amendment had been on the statute book. It seems to me a sensible proposition; I hope that the Minister agrees that education authorities should have this power. It applies to a very restricted and small number of bodies; we do not anticipate that hundreds of children will be moving area. We are talking about a very small number, but we think it important that children should be able to attend their local school. That is achieved by holding on to the places in anticipation of the children moving in. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I wonder whether the provisions being sought in the amendment could not perhaps be considered again when we come to Amendment No. 16 standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Minto. It raises a point that we should consider. Obviously I much admire his intimate knowledge of the problems involved.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as I explained when we debated this issue in Committee, since we introduced placing requests in 1981 over a quarter of a million children have benefited. Parents can now have real choice in deciding which schools they wish their children to attend. The policy is both a popular and a successful one—so much so that placing requests are now an intrinsic part of the school education system in Scotland.

Again, as I said in Committee, I can see why education authorities might favour an amendment of this nature. The intention behind the amendment is to permit authorities to reserve places at a specified school against the possibility of pupils moving into the area served by that school during the school year, either into existing housing stock or to housing not yet built but for which planning permission has been granted. There is clearly an element of speculation here. Migration of pupils into existing housing stock may not be as anticipated and houses for which planning permission has been granted may not be built in the year concerned. Indeed, fewer children may move into them than has been anticipated. Uncertainty over the impact of such movements will be particularly great in large towns and cities.

What we would then be concerned about is not only the element of speculation but also the fact that, given the time that children are at school, there might be the prospect of some places at popular schools simply lying unused for quite a period. When schools reach capacity, there are inevitably going to be some who, for one reason or another, are unable to gain entry. That is not a new phenomenon. There have always been some schools at capacity. When there is surplus demand for places, some parents—and some pupils—are going to be disappointed no matter what entry arrangements apply.

The crux of the issue, as we see it, is that many overlapping interests are affected by the placing request system. To move the goalposts to affect intake arrangements for schools which are full is simply to produce a set of losers to counter-balance any winners there might be.

Where schools are at capacity, we consider there is an opportunity—I accept it may be modest in certain circumstances—for that capacity to be increased either through a permanent expansion or, if the bulge is anticipated to be a short one, through the provision of additional temporary accommodation. For these reasons, although I am aware of the particular example the noble Lord has cited in Stirlingshire, we are not persuaded that the amendment should be accepted. As I say, there will always be some who win or lose. We hope that the existing arrangement allows a considerable number of children to be placed in the schools their parents choose. The very figures that I have given would, I suggest, indicate that over the past decade or so the policy has been remarkably successful and should be left intact.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, I listened with great care to what the Minister said. I am beginning to worry about my powers of persuasion. On the last three days that we have debated the Bill the only thing I have been able to persuade him about has been a provision in relation to burial grounds. I doubt whether I shall succeed in relation to school placements. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 171 [Functions to include promotion of economic development]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 115, leave out lines 39 to 41 and insert:

("impose conditions requiring consultation by the local authority of such persons as may be prescribed and requiring the local authority to provide such information to the Secretary of State as may be.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to limit the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations restricting the powers of a local authority to do certain things, for example requiring new councils to consult local enterprise companies before carrying out economic development activities and requiring new councils to provide information in accordance with obligations of European Union law.

In 1993 the Government published their White Paper on local government reorganisation in which they set out their conclusions on industrial development powers. Those conclusions were quite lengthy, and I shall deal with them briefly. The Government maintained that they valued, the significant contribution of local authorities in this area and have decided to take the opportunity to confirm in statute for the first time a local authority's right to become involved in industrial development activities. As with the English and Welsh equivalent, the Scottish provision will include a power enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations imposing conditions or restrictions on the way in which local authorities carry out this function. The intention is that this power will be used for two purposes: to require local authorities to provide the Secretary of State with information about financial assistance to companies—this information is required by EC law—and to require local authorities to consult annually relevant local interests; such as local enterprise companies and chambers of commerce, on the broad outline of their industrial development for their area. While there would be no obligation on any of the parties involved to come to an agreement on the plans, the Government hope that this provision will improve co-ordination between the various bodies involved in industrial development". Local authorities in Scotland presently have considerable scope to incur expenditure on economic development under Section 83 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. This power has been exercised successfully without the need for regulation by the Secretary of State. It is also noteworthy that this whole matter was one of the issues considered in detail by the Widdicombe Committee report on the conduct of local authority business, published in 1986, which recommended the continuation of the discretionary power. That was accepted by the government of the day. I am sure the Minister will see that the purpose of the amendment is to allow local authorities to make major decisions about development in their own areas. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am happy to acknowledge the important role performed by local authorities in promoting economic development within their own areas. That is why we decided that in this Bill we should include a provision expressly granting local authorities the power to engage in a wide range of economic development activities. It is worth noting that Section 171A will for the first time confirm in statute that local authorities have that right to become involved in the broad field of economic development. I am sure that that is a welcome provision in the Bill.

We have little doubt that the new local authorities will exercise their economic development power in both a responsible and effective manner. However, economic development is a field of activity in which the Government inevitably have to take an interest. Government departments are themselves engaged in providing advice and assistance on economic development, as are other bodies in the enterprise networks, local authorities and other publicly-funded bodies. The Government have a right to expect that those many bodies will operate in a harmonious relationship with each other and that local action will not frustrate national policy.

That is the justification for Section 171B, which allows the Secretary of State to place restrictions or conditions on local authorities' use of their economic development power. However, I wish to emphasise that the Secretary of State does not intend to use Section 171B to impose any radical restrictions or conditions. He does, however, intend to require local authorities to consult other bodies on their economic development plans. I should have thought that that would be considered a desirable requirement. He also intends to require local authorities to supply details of their economic development activities, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, clearly anticipated, because that is required in terms of our obligations under European law.

However, I confirm that we have no plans to use any part of Section 171B to introduce any other restrictions or conditions on local authorities' activities. But it seems not only desirable but necessary, given our European Union obligations, that such a reserve power should be held by the Secretary of State. I have already given the undertaking that his present plans are to use it only in the most restricted fashion.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. His explanation has cleared up one or two points. There will be no opportunity to read his reply and come back to the matter, but it appears that there is not as much between us as I originally thought. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5 p.m.

Schedule 1 [New local government areas]:

Lord Ewing of Kirkford moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 131, line 19, at end insert:

("Bearsden and Milngavie Bearsden and Milngavie District Council.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 6 to 9 deal with the boundary situation as it relates to Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and Milngavie and Bearsden. The Minister will recall that during the Committee stage proceedings we discussed the matter at length although we did not divide the House.

Of all the boundary issues on which I have had correspondence, even taking into account the Highland Region, this has consistently been one of the issues on which I have received a substantial volume of correspondence. The Minister will know that there is deep discontent, particularly in Kilsyth and Cumbernauld, that those areas are to be joined in an authority called North Lanarkshire which takes in parts of Strathkelvin, Motherwell and Monklands, whereas Kilsyth and Cumbernauld have expressed the view that they would prefer to be joined with Strathkelvin in a unitary authority. Such an authority would be economically viable and would form a good authority.

The Bearsden and Milngavie District Council has been in correspondence with me. Its position has always been that it would have preferred to form a unitary authority on its own. However, the main issue for debate tonight is the position of Kilsyth and Cumbernauld in relation to the North Lanarkshire authority in which they have been linked. That authority has a population of 340,000 while the neighbouring authority of East Dunbarton has a much smaller population. Although I do not say that that would not be viable, it would present difficulties.

I hope that even at this late hour the Minister will agree to accept the proposal that Cumbernauld and Kilsyth should be linked with Strathkelvin to form a unitary authority. That is loosely known as the Lennox option. That is an option which I suggest the Minister should consider seriously with a view to accepting it. I beg to move.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to Amendment No. 6 relating to Bearsden and Milngavie. I have a feeling of déjà vu. During the last reorganisation of local government I had more than a little hand in Bearsden and Milngavie becoming a separate authority instead of being part of the city of Glasgow.

When I look at the information which the authority has supplied recently concerning its activities I am certain that the influence which I brought to bear at that time was justified. It has proved to be an efficient council. I am sure that it is in an even better position to carry out the functions of a unitary authority than perhaps some of the other small authorities which are to be independent.

I hope that even now the Minister may be persuaded that the Bearsden and Milngavie district could continue to stand on its own. I hope that he is, but I would not bet a large amount of money on it.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I support the view put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I have received a letter from the Provost which is a heartfelt plea for the retention of independent status.

As the noble Lord said, the Provost lists many achievements which I should have thought were native to a lively local democracy. We need to take note of that. The noble and learned Lord paid tribute to democracy and said that the council could appoint an education chief if it wished. I think that a little more is required.

In the case of Bearsden and Milngavie, people genuinely feel that they are a community. The Provost of Bearsden and Milngavie District Council says that it is a cohesive community, which is important, and that services could be delivered more cheaply with an ongoing saving of £650,000 per annum. He has set himself that target. It is worth a try. The Provost continues: We have no cultural links with Strathkelvin … We do not use the schools in Strathkelvin … We do not use the commercial facilities in Strathkelvin to any extent … We have no direct bus links with Strathkelvin. Rail links do not exist and to the best of our knowledge, never will … We have no affinity with the residents of Strathkelvin". That list reflects strong local feeling. I feel that in this Bill the Government have ignored those local feelings. They have certainly done so in the case of the Highlands. Here is an entirely different district where the situation is the same.

I am sorry to return to a Second Reading point, although it is not a Second Reading point. Today in the Daily Telegraph —a newspaper which I read every morning when I am in London because I get it free in the Farmers Club and which, furthermore, is a very good newspaper because it attacks the Government with greater efficiency than any other newspaper —there is an item on the Local Government Commission in England. It reads: The largely two-tier local authority structure across England's shire counties looks likely to remain after the Local Government Commission recommended no change in a further six counties". That means that the commission has taken into account local feeling, which I fear Scottish Ministers have totally failed to do.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I totally support the proposal put forward by my noble friend Lord Ewing. I have received a considered document from Bearsden and Milngavie District Council. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes,. I took part in the campaign to secure the independence of that particular area when it was originally proposed that it should be part of the city of Glasgow.

In the light of experience, the authority has justified its existence. It is efficient, it has done a good job in a rather special separate community. Surely this local government Bill should be about that—encouraging cohesive local communities to have a feeling of pride in their existence. In this case, Bearsden and Milngavie are certainly justified. I note that the authority employed consultants to give an independent judgment on the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, and they suggested that there would be an ongoing saving of £650,000 per annum.

Interestingly enough, the consultants employed by the authority were the same as those used by the Scottish Office in the preparation of the Bill to justify the economics of the Bill, calculating what it would do in savings on local government. The consultants were Messrs. Touche Ross and Company, a perfectly independent, reasonable and accepted accountancy practice.

So here we have a community which provides facilities. A comparison is made with another district on the periphery of Glasgow, the Eastwood District Council which is the only other authority on the periphery of Glasgow. The Bearsden and Milngavie district council states that, it is firmly established that Bearsden and Milngavie District Council provide more facilities and a much higher standard of services to our 42,000 residents than those available for the 60,000 residents of the Eastwood District Council". Are we going to suppress, for some unknown reason, this local interest and local enthusiasm as well as the obvious efficiency in the provision of services? Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us as to why he is proceeding in this way.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, on the previous occasion when we considered the proposal for this part of Scotland I indicated that there was a range of possible options which were canvassed both during the consultation exercise and during the passage of the Bill through Parliament.

It would appear, however, that its "problem" status in terms of local government boundaries goes back much further than simply that consultation period or the passage of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, indicated that it is not easy to see natural boundaries on that side of Glasgow. After all, we are dealing with the area which he and other noble Lords may recall was covered by the renowned and possibly infamous "detached Dunbartonshire". Interestingly, it is also a part of the country where there would be difficulties if any of the amendments went through. There would be a divergence between health board areas and local authority boundaries.

I am happy to acknowledge that this was not an easy decision and for that reason I am not surprised that noble Lords have received considerable correspondence from various interested local groups and individuals. But I am sure that noble Lords on the Labour Benches will appreciate that even among Labour MPs who know their own areas intimately, someone like Mr. Norman Hogg would put forward a different proposal from the one that would be put forward by Mr. Sam Galbraith on Bearsden and Milngavie.

So what it comes to is that there is no simple, obvious answer which we have pig-headedly refused. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, that to suggest that we have done nothing to accommodate local feelings when his noble friend the Earl of Mar and Kellie is sitting behind him, who fought so vigorously for Clackmannan, seems a little churlish.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I should like to point out that in England a commission was appointed to look into the matter, but it was the Scottish Office that did it in Scotland.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as I observed on a previous occasion, if you went to Derbyshire I do not think you would find particularly warm approval for the set of proposals there.

The inclusion of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth within North Lanarkshire will provide a sizeable authority of considerable potential. It mixes the old and the new in terms of its industrial base and it will be able to act as a powerful counterweight to the new City of Glasgow council.

The proposed East Dunbartonshire area also has the potential, I believe, to develop into a highly effective new council. With a population of 110,000, it will, of course, be larger than the smallest regional council at present and it, too, should be able to benefit from its proximity not only to Glasgow but to North Lanarkshire.

I freely acknowledge that we were never going to be able to devise a boundary solution in the area which would be acceptable to everyone, no matter how many commissions we invited to tackle this boundary. There is a suspicion, which I have heard, that those in North Lanarkshire quite like the proposed solution because they wish to steer clear of Monklands—but I am sure that that is an entirely unworthy thought on my part and indeed of those who live in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.

It has not been an easy decision and on balance, with the consideration that has been given to the matter, I invite the House to agree that the existing solution is correct.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, he mentioned differences of opinion on the Liberal and Labour Benches. I noticed from the letter I received from the local authority that it pointedly indicated that the Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden strongly supported the point of view expressed from these Benches. I should have thought that that would have carried some weight with the Minister.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, it certainly does, but it serves only to underline the point that I am making. If one went to other parts of the two areas which are now proposed one would find different individuals, regardless of their political affiliation, coming forward with a wide variety of possible solutions.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, I should have been disappointed if the Minister had not mentioned Monklands—in fact, he would have spoiled my day if he had not. I fully accept that an investigation is going on into the activities at Monklands. That is only one of the investigations going on at present into politicians; some have been set up just this week. We shall see who emerges unscathed as the investigations develop.

I should tell your Lordships that, contrary to what the Minister said, Mr. Norman Hogg supports the amendments. I have had that passed to me hot from the press. It fell from I do not know where into my lap that Mr. Norman Hogg is strongly in favour of the amendments. I would not want Mr. Hogg's views misrepresented and therefore I hope that I have put the matter straight.

I was interested in the quotation by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, from the article in the Daily Telegraph. It is interesting because the article explains that the authorities in Kent, Somerset and various other shire counties in England are not to be touched. However, there is a wonderful footnote which says that the Conservative Party does not want to have in-fighting between sitting councillors for a smaller number of seats. I assure the Minister that with three Tory councillors of the 103 members of the council in Strathclyde they will certainly not have that problem in Scotland.

I listened with great interest to what the Minister said. Here we have three authorities and all the people who live in them are of the unanimous view that the terms of the amendments should be implemented. The Minister rejects that. I regard this as the greatest piece of gerrymandering among a lot of gerrymandering contained in the Bill, so I shall divide the House on it. To save time I shall not divide the House on Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9 but the vote on Amendment No. 6 should be an indication of our support for the point of view of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, Bearsden and Milngavie and those authorities that are included in the amendment. I therefore seek the view of the House.

5.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 47; Not-Contents, 109.

Division No.2
Airedale, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Haskel, L.
Birk, B. Howell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hughes, L.
Broadbridge, L. Jeger, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kagan, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Kilbracken, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Kintore, E.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. [Teller]
Dubs, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Elis-Thomas, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Ennals, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Monkswell, L.
Falkland, V. Nathan, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Richard, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Seear, B.
[Teller] Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shepherd, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L
Strabolgi, L. White, B.
Taylor of Gryfe, L. Williams of Ervel, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Tope, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Addison, V. Leigh, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Lindsay, E.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Arran, E [Teller.] Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Ashboume, L. Lucas, L.
Astor of Hever.L Lyell, L.
Astor, V. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Balfour, E Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord
Blaker, L. Chancellor]
Blatch, B. Mancroft, L
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mashara of Ilton, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Cadman, L. Merrivale, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mersey, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Camegy of Lour, B. Mirverton, L.
Carnock, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Carr of Hadky, L Monteagle of Brandon, L
Chesham, L. Morris, L.
Clark of Kempston, L. Mottistone, L.
Craigavon, V. Mountevans, L.
Cranbome, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Crathorne, L. Munster, E.
Crickhowell, L. Newall, L.
Cross, V. Northesk, E.
Cullen of Ashboume, L. Orkney, E.
Cumberlege, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Davidson, V. Oxfuird, V.
Denham, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Pender, L.
Dudley, E Pym, L.
Ellenborough, L. Rawlings, B.
Elles, B. Reay, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Rees, L.
Elphinstone, L. Renton, L.
Ferrers, E Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Finsberg, L. Seccombe, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Selborne, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Geddes, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Goschen, V. Strange, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Strathcarron, L.
Gray, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Harlech, L. Sudeley, L.
Harrowby, E. Teviot, L.
Harrington, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Henley, L. Trefgame, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Trumpington, B.
Hooper, B. Ullswater, V.
Howe, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Inchyra, L. Vivian, L.
Inglewood, L. Westbury, L.
Kenyon, L. Wharton, B.
Lauderdale, E. Wigram, L.
Layton, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 9 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Establishment of new local authorities]:

Lord Taylor of Gryfe moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 132, line 42, after ("wards") insert (",the boundaries of which, where possible, correspond to the boundaries of the wards for district council elections as at 7th May 1992 and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a matter that we have discussed to some extent in earlier proceedings. It deals with what is rather fundamental. We are talking now about the number of councillors who will be involved in the reorganisation.

One point worries me a little as I look at the future shape of local government in Scotland under these provisions. If, as has been suggested, the number of councillors is reduced, there are two dangers. First, there is the danger of creating a new class of professional councillors who will be almost full-time. That is not a particularly good thing. It might even, as it were, duplicate local MPs. Secondly, I have always thought that the strength of local government lay in the closeness of councillors to the people whom they represent. If you reduce the number of councillors, in widely spread rural areas such as the one in which I live, north-east Fife, the councillors in a small centralised authority cannot possibly respond to the variety of interests and concerns of constituents in that rural community.

With this amendment I seek some kind of reassurance from the Minister with regard to this matter. I know that it will be argued that the boundary commission will review the number of electoral wards before the elections in 1999.I believe that it would be wise, in the transition period at least, if the existing local wards were the basis for electing councillors.

So far as concerns Fife, it has the support of a large number of authorities in Scotland which share its fears. Even within Fife, Kirkcaldy District Council, Dunfermline District Council and North-East Fife District Council have supported my amendment. So have Caithness, Sutherland and Inverness; so have Lochaber and Tweeddale and Wigtown District Councils. All of them feel that if you have the centralised local authority and reduce the number of councillors that there are at the moment, there will be a remoteness which is not consistent with the democratic exercise of opinion such as we try to have in local government. Therefore, I should welcome some kind of assurance from the Minister that he has that in mind, that the full exercise will not be too centralised and that the opportunity to have existing local councillors who have sensitivity to local needs will not be overlooked.

One part of the Bill which worries me is that many of the people in local councils are experienced people. They will lose their existing functions as the new centralised bodies take over. That will be a great loss to the community. They are local people who give their time not for reward but because they are interested in a form of community service and the exercise of democratic practice. I hope that those people will not be entirely lost. At least for the transition period of the new authorities, I hope that the Government will be able to assure us that the number of councillors will not be reduced, as has been suggested in some quarters. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, this is an important amendment. I appreciate that, when the Minister replies, he will tell the House that there will be an opportunity to debate this matter at a later stage when the orders are laid defining the number of councillors that each of the unitary authorities will have. But it highlights the whole question of the timetable. I wonder whether the Minister realises that 23 weeks from today the electors of Scotland will be at the polls electing the councillors to the new unitary authorities. We still do not know how many councillors each of the unitary authorities will have. In my view the orders simply cannot be laid before the middle of December. They have to lie for 40 days before they are debated, not including Recess times, Saturdays and Sundays. So it will be the middle of January before Parliament can approve or disapprove of the orders. I leave that question of the timetable with the noble and learned Lord the Minister.

My other point is that Allan Stewart, the Minister's colleague in another place, has given an absolute undertaking that the existing district council boundaries will be used as the boundaries for the new authorities at the initial elections and the local government boundary commission would renew those boundaries in time for the elections of 1999. It seems to me that in a region such as Fife, for example, the 45 councillors proposed in the consultation document published by the Secretary of State are far too few. Fife's evidence is that it would like to have 70 councillors. But one cannot draw boundaries in a short time to create 70 wards. Therefore, it would be sensible to move to the number of 92 councillors which would be produced by the district council boundaries. Then the boundary commission can deal with that between 1995 and 1999.

I appreciate that we shall return to this point. However, I hope that the Minister will at least give an assurance that on this of all issues—they have been very inflexible in the Bill—there will be some flexibility.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I have two main difficulties with regard to the particular terms of the amendment. First, it will require the use of what I might describe as the old district wards. However, they have recently been the subject of review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. Because of new developments and population movements, electoral areas inevitably become out of date. It would be our view that it makes good sense to make full use of the recent work carried out by the commission and to use the updated wards that emerge from their recommendations.

Secondly, the blanket approach of the amendment runs counter to the flexible approach set out in the Bill, which enables local solutions to be found where the particular circumstances of an area dictate an alternative approach. The region (as it is at the moment—or the Kingdom of Fife), from which come the noble Lords who have spoken, is an interesting example. I am well aware of the argument that the regional division would produce too few councillors. But at an earlier stage, the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, acknowledged that 92 councillors might be too many and that somewhere between 46 and 92 might be a sensible figure. There is certainly an argument for approaching this matter with the flexibility that is allowed for in the Bill.

The Government have recently gone out to public consultation on precisely what shape the new electoral wards should take. We have proposed solutions based on new district wards for the vast majority of areas. Where it seemed to us in setting out the consultation paper that areas might produce councils which would be too large, we have come forward with an alternative solution.

I stress again that these are consultation proposals. We have not approached the exercise from any fixed position. No decisions have yet been made and I can assure noble Lords that all the views expressed will be fully taken into account before any such decisions are reached. What we need to do is ensure that the councils are of a size that is appropriate to their area. We believe that this consultation exercise will help us to achieve that.

I want to emphasise the transitional nature of the provisions set out in Schedule 2. The new electoral wards will be used for the first elections to the new councils on 6th April 1995. As the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, clearly understands, the statute provides for them subsequently to be reviewed prior to the next set of elections by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. It may not be a perfect solution but it should be understood that, even if the outcome of the consultation exercise and the arrangements that we are putting forward are not regarded as desirable, it should not be considered that they will be set in concrete for all time so long as those councils exist.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I very much welcome the statement that has been made by the Minister. I realise that that is as far as he can go tonight. We will have the opportunity, as the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, said, to look again at the boundaries when this matter comes back in the form of an order. Under those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7 [Constitution and proceedings etc. of a new water and sewerage authority]:

[Amendments Nos. 11 to 14 not moved.]

Schedule 13 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 192, leave out lines 12 to 16.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 15 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 17, 18, and 19. Your Lordships will be pleased to know that they are minor technical amendments under Schedules 13 and 14. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Minto moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 199, line 18, at end insert:

("( ) After section 146 there shall be inserted the following section—

146A. Every local authority shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that adequate plans and procedures are in place to deal with foreseeable emergencies which may affect their area".").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 16 was tabled in Committee and also at Report. However, probably for as much reason as that it came at the end of each day it was neither moved nor debated. The object is to impose on local authorities a duty to plan for all foreseeable emergencies that could affect a local authority area.

With the bringing into effect of the Civil Defence General Local Authority Functions (Scotland) Regulations 1993, the Government formalised a fundamental shift in their thinking on the role of local authority emergency planning. Until then the whole thrust of civil defence planning, from the enactment of the Civil Defence (Scotland) Act 1948 to date, had been to require local authorities, as a statutory duty, to plan and prepare under ministerial direction for the eventualities of a hostile attack, including the use by an aggressor of nuclear weapons. That we came to know as "civil defence emergency planning". No equivalent statutory duty existed to plan and prepare for peacetime emergencies. Sadly they do and will occur.

With the introduction of the 1993 regulations regional and island councils in Scotland are now required to have plans which enable them to respond to any incident, irrespective of its cause, and simultaneously to maintain their normal services. They are required to train members of their own staff and, in the case of regional councils, the staff of the districts within their region. There is also an obligation to train any other persons necessary to the operation of the plans. In the view of local authorities, that brings nearer the point of having a duty to provide peacetime emergency planning. But it does not have the proper statutory base, a position which the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, representing the local authorities in Scotland, supports. The local authorities, in common with other local authority associations, pressed on several occasions for the Government to introduce a statutory basis for peacetime emergency planning. That view was supported by many other bodies and organisations. It is understood that in the Government's review of civil defence arrangements in 1991 the then civil emergencies adviser, David Brook, recommended the introduction of a statutory duty for local authorities to undertake peacetime emergency planning.

The Government did not act upon the recommendations in the Brook report, which would have required primary legislation. Amendment No. 16 therefore is an opportunity to provide the necessary primary legislation which is so far missing. Accordingly, the support of the local authorities in Scotland is strong. The convention, speaking on their behalf, believes that such civil defence legislation as exists is concerned more with reaction to incidents and their immediate aftermath rather than the vital contribution which can be made to preserving public safety by longer term pre-planning, training and exercising.

In support of the view that peacetime emergency planning should be on a statutory basis the local authorities have submitted a number of observations. They believe that the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards (CIMAH) Regulations 1984 require appropriate local authorities to undertake pre-planning on a statutory basis. Otherwise, authorities undertake peacetime emergency planning on a discretionary basis. Inevitably, there is a disparity between the plans prepared by emergency planning authorities. Decisions as to undertaking such planning can be affected by other priorities of concern to individual authorities. That uneven approach will inevitably lead to a disuniform response to an emergency where it affects more than one emergency planning authority's area. A statutory basis would provide uniformity across the whole country in peacetime emergency planning by local authorities.

There is a clear public expectation that local authorities should play a major role in emergency incidents. I shall return to the question of Lockerbie, which is very near to the region which I represent. As most local authority functions are statutory, it is illogical to omit such an important task as peacetime emergency planning from the statutory duties of local authorities. Furthermore, they have a right to be supported by a statutory function and their role in peacetime emergency planning should be put beyond doubt by Her Majesty's Government.

Emergency planning is a costly exercise, particularly if validating exercises and training are taken into account. The creation of a statutory peacetime emergency function will require allocation of adequate resources to enable emergency planning authorities to discharge the function properly. Such planning will have to have regard to resources, after-care aspects including finance, legal matters, compensation, counselling of casualty victims and so forth. The introduction of a peacetime emergency planning function should not alter the well understood roles of the chief constables and the fire masters and their respective services. The role of chief executives in peacetime emergency planning would also benefit from clearer specification.

Emergency planning authorities have all developed some form of peacetime emergency plan, partly through the obligatory measures under the CIMAH regulations and partly through the aegis of the Civil Protection in Peacetime Act 1986 which permits planning and resources provided for wartime emergency to be used in relation to peacetime disasters. However, the guidance issued by the Scottish Office is selective and piecemeal.

New legislation for peacetime emergency planning would require to encompass other public bodies and organisations as well as local authorities, but this proposed legislation would provide an opportunity for a more comprehensive approach to dealing with peacetime emergencies and clearly identify the distinct roles of regular emergency services and those other services, including the important voluntary sector, which may be called in aid when an incident occurs. It is important to ensure that the well-established operational roles of the emergency services, particularly police and fire, should be understood in the context of peacetime emergency planning. Confusion must be avoided between their roles at the time of an incident, immediately thereafter and any proposed roles for them in the aftermath of an incident.

At the present moment all the work that the: regional authorities in Scotland do they do as a moral obligation. They are not obliged to carry out the duties that they presently do. In my own council in the Borders during this past year in 1994 we have held two large co-ordination and control exercises at regional level, three similar exercises at individual districts and a number of training events. All of those have been funded from the existing Scottish Office civil defence grant and moneys of our own. Yet in three weeks' time a large Level 3 nuclear exercise will be held at Torness nuclear power station. The participants will include two regional councils, two district authorities, all the emergency services and many statutory organisations. In respect of the local authority involvement in this exercise, each will be bearing its own costs from within its existing grants or through local authority contributions to the emergency planning function.

Those of us who live in the south of Scotland were shocked, as I am sure was the nation, at the time of Lockerbie. I should make it clear that that catastrophe did not affect directly the region of which I am convenor. It affected the neighbouring region of Dumfries and Galloway. But had there not been some moral obligation, the tragedy on the ground would have been much worse than in fact it was. The march of an area between the division I represent in local government within my region and Lockerbie is a shared march. Parts of the aircraft fell into my electoral division, although only in a small quantity compared with my neighbour. It was a deeply impressive thing to see the services that were provided at that time. But it would be quite wrong to say that we did not learn lessons from that accident. We learnt great lessons.

Perhaps, above all else, we learnt that it was no good to turn around and say, "Such an accident could not happen in my area". These accidents can happen in any area. They may come from the air or they may come from the land. I strongly believe that this is a matter which should be faced with strength and that the Government should make it a statutory obligation and fund sufficiently the authorities which are responsible, whether they be local authorities, police authorities or fire authorities, to the maximum of their needs. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I support the noble Earl, Lord Minto, on what is an important point. Cross-border co-operation in an emergency is something which we should all encourage and I hope that it has government backing. This is a lovely example where I feel that something of this nature could be put into primary legislation. This gives us the opportunity to do it. If the amendment is not accepted I hope that the Government will bring forward a statutory instrument which would cover the very points which the noble Earl has raised. I am sure that all of us appreciate having a convenor of an authority talking on this line. I very much appreciate every word the noble Earl said.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as noble Lords will remember from the Committee stage on 13th July, I wholly agreed with the proposition that local authorities should have in place suitable arrangements to mitigate the effects of any disaster in their community. For this reason local authorities have in recent years been encouraged to make use of their civil defence grant in a flexible way to provide for an effective response to any eventuality and not simply civil defence work.

Local authorities and the emergency services have established arrangements which are well tried and tested, both in exercises and in real emergencies. Noble Lords will remember a number of tragic incidents and possibly most obviously the one mentioned by the noble Earl, the murderous attack at Lockerbie—for that indeed is what it was. What needs to be remembered about that is that not only did the adjacent local authorities respond magnificently to the effort but also the Armed Forces and local authorities from south of the Border. There is in place in terms of the police Act a power which the Secretary of State could have brought to bear requiring the co-operation of Strathclyde police, the Lothian and Borders police and all the police authorities of Scotland. It is a matter to be recorded with some pride that the Secretary of State never had to think for a moment of exercising that power because every policy authority in Scotland responded in the most wholehearted of fashions.

However, there are also lesser but nevertheless important incidents such as the recent Tayside flooding. Most recently there was the helicopter crash at the Mull of Kintyre. All these events underlined not only the importance of the joint emergency co-ordinating arrangements in force in Scotland but the fashion in which they are already in place. I am sure that the noble Earl is correct that there are always lessons to be learnt from any incident and indeed sometimes from the exercises. However, I believe that the existing legislation and the grant arrangements are working well. What is essentially a civil defence duty is most effectively fulfilled by the present all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness. In addition, an awareness of the need to be ready for emergencies is increasingly an integral part of the thinking of all local authority service departments. We recognise that the precise way in which emergency planning is tackled may differ from one authority to another. We see that as a natural consequence of different local circumstances and different internal arrangements within authorities.

While we stress the importance of emergency planning we do not believe that any new statutory duty is necessary. However, we are always ready to provide any specific guidance or advice which authorities might find helpful. A recent survey of authorities' experiences of operation under the new 1993 regulations did not reveal any particular demand for further guidance.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate, but I hope that noble Lords will be appreciative of our view that effective arrangements are already in place. Indeed, many of the participating bodies are to be warmly commended for the way in which they have co-operated in a fashion well beyond their own areas.

6 p.m.

The Earl of Minto

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the comments he has made and of course I accept what he says. But I am sorry to say—and I do not say this in the least bit offensively toward the noble and learned Lord himself—that there is an attitude of complacency in this. It is true that there is the cross-border provision, and the armed forces. We have all the other services at our disposal. But the whole thing is done, virtually speaking, on a voluntary and moral obligation basis when one comes down to the real nitty gritty. It is that which concerns me very deeply. I believe that the matter needs to be looked at again by the Government in the very near future.

While I accept the points made by the noble and learned Lord, the matter is not something about which one can be complacent. While these powers are available to the Secretary of State to impose, as the noble and learned Lord said he could call on them if he wanted to at a particular point. It is quite true that he could, but it is awful to think that he might have to do so. The provision should be there as of right if necessary and not something to be taken as a decision after the event.

Having heard what the noble and learned Lord said, I do not intend to press this amendment to a Division. I hope that the importance which is attached to this matter by the local authorities of Scotland will not have missed the mark in this short interjection on my part. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 238, line 39, leave out second ("local authority") and insert ("council").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 15, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 14 [Repeals]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendments Nos. 18 and 19:

Page 259, line 6, column 3, at end insert: ("and the words from "And provided" to "such dwelling house".").

Page 267, line 25, at end insert:

("1978 c. 29. The National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978. In section 16A(1), in paragraph (b), the words "of a regional or islands council's", in paragraph (c), the words "of a district or islands council's" and, in paragraph (d), the words "of a regional or islands council's".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

This has been an extremely challenging and wide-ranging piece of legislation. It has also been one of the most important Bills affecting Scotland to come before this House in recent years. We have considered subjects as diverse as nursery education; burial grounds, which are much beloved of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing; the future of the water and sewerage services; and economic development. I believe that we are also well aware from the representations which we have all received—indeed, I have been told that they have been received in greater volume than at any other time on any other legislation—from Scotland. That demonstrates that the Bill has been the subject of considerable interest in Scotland. We should welcome that, attaching as it does to such an important Bill.

Many of the detailed points which have been put to the Government in this House have been accepted. We have agreed, among others, amendments dealing with advertisements of joint board schemes. We have recognised the keen interest of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in the title of Lord Provost and the disapplication of roadworks registers to island councils. We have also introduced a requirement that new single-tier councils should each have a chief social work officer. While it was a government amendment that introduced that change, I should like to acknowledge that this latter amendment is due in no small measure to the considered and pertinent arguments put forward by all sides of the House during the debate.

There have of course been parts of the Bill on which we have been unable to agree. Nevertheless, I should like to record my thanks to all those who have participated for putting forward their respective views in such a courteous and considered manner. It is perhaps inevitable that opinions will sometimes diverge markedly on issues of such importance. I should like to pay a particular tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Ewing, for their contributions from the Opposition Front Bench and also to the noble Lords, Lord Mackie and Lord Thomson, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on the Liberal Democrat Benches.

By my calculation, over 50 Members of your Lordships' House have participated in this Bill at its various stages. I have been concerned that those who do not come from Scotland should have felt that they had no right to participate. Indeed, their participation was more than welcome. I particularly welcomed the intervention from the Welsh Nationalist from the Cross Benches. I should like to express my particular thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Minto, whose wide experience of local authority matters has been helpful not only to the Government but, I believe, to all noble Lords who wished to participate in this debate. I am most grateful to him for all that he has contributed.

Given that there were something in excess of 50 of your Lordships participating, I hope I shall be forgiven if I do not express individual thanks to them all. However, I should like particularly to thank my noble friend Lord Northesk, who offered one of his first contributions in your Lordships' House in the course of the debate on nursery education. Yet again, through slightly gritted teeth, I compliment my noble friend Lord Balfour, who once again has scored a goal in front of the parliamentary draftsman and has managed to ensure that no fewer than 13 amendments are directly attributable to his careful scrutiny of the Bill. I cannot wish him the same success in future Bills.

I should like to offer my particular thanks to my noble and learned friend Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, who has assisted me in shouldering much of the burden of this Bill. Not only had he to take the Welsh local government Bill through your Lordships' House, but he had also to undergo a series of lessons on pronunciation to enable him to do so. I had rather anticipated that by the time the Scottish local government Bill came before your Lordships he would have had enough. I am grateful for his willingness to participate in the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House.

We now have a Bill which has grown by three clauses and four pages from that which was brought from another place. I believe that when this Bill returns there it will be considered to have been significantly improved in a number of ways. That would not have been possible without your Lordships' participation. I conclude by expressing general thanks to all those who have offered their contributions, even though it may mean that when noble Lords such as my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin, go home to some localities in Scotland they may find that in the Highlands they have not got quite the same friends as they thought they had before consideration of the Bill began. However, I hope that, by participating in the way my noble friend has, he will find that he has new friends as well. I am grateful to all those who have contributed. I commend the Bill to this House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, when a Bill as long as this one has reached this stage, we all feel a certain relief. We think over what has been said and what was missed out. However, despite the charm of both noble and learned Lords and the civility with which they treated the mass of amendments which were put forward—we do not want to be unpleasant—it would be wrong to think that this was a good Bill. We shall need to continue to take that point of view until the noble and learned Lord is proved to be correct in believing that it is legislation which Scotland has been waiting for. We have given a fairly strong impression of the fact that we do not believe that Scotland has been waiting for the Bill. In fact, we feel that Scotland would probably prosper rather better without it.

I thank all those who have spoken. One becomes quite chummy after so much time on a Bill—even with the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, although she has not been enthusiastic in our cause.

I should like to draw attention again to the timetable, which has been emphasised by many. We think that it will be extremely tight. I do not know whether even at this late stage the Government could find a way of extending it. Having said that, however, I think that we have all learnt a little more about local government than we knew previously. I accept that the Bill has now passed through all its stages in this House, except for our consideration of what may come back from another place. Once again, I thank all those who have taken part, and particularly those on the front Bench who have been so courteous throughout our debates.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I too welcome the end of our proceedings which have been conducted in a very amiable manner, although at times they became a little difficult. This is not much of a Bill. We are grateful for the decision on Clackmannan which will be an experiment as a very small unitary authority, but we completely reject the decision on Bearsden and Milngavie. The whole of the Highlands is to fall into one single authority, now depending on the generosity of a central authority to spread democracy over the region. I have never heard of a central authority giving away any decision-making power willingly or unwillingly without being forced to do so.

Although one may disagree with the detail of our first amendment on a Scottish Assembly, one of the things that the Bill has done is to highlight the necessity for such an assembly because the concentration of power in the hands of the Secretary of Sate is enormous. Our need for such an assembly was also indicated in the Division on the question of whether there should be one or two unitary authorities in the Highlands. As near as I could count, 12 Tory Peers from Scotland voted for the amendment and many fewer Scottish Peers voted against it. That seems to indicate, as we have said all along, that the Bill has no backing in Scotland—not even among the Government's own supporters. However, I am glad that it is over. We shall now regret the Bill, along with the rest of the people of Scotland.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, I do not think that any of us on this side of the House have disguised the fact that we do not like much of the Bill. I have sometimes thought that the Minister must have been more impressed by some of the arguments from this side than he was prepared to admit. I must also accept the fact that, although the noble and learned Lord gave away very little, he managed to refuse to give way to us in the most amiable way. He never gave us any cause for offence in the way in which he did that. The only thing that we can say is that we did not like what he did as opposed to the way in which he said it.

Obviously, the noble and learned Lord is not without a sense of humour because when we were talking about Bearsden and Milngavie, he threw in Alloa as an example of the way in which the Government had responded to local authority feeling. I thought that that was a bit rich considering that the Government started by attaching Alloa to Stirling, but Stirling would have none of it—or rather, Mr. Forsyth would have none of it—so the Government then offered Alloa to Falkirk, and Alloa did not want to have anything to do with Falkirk, so the Government's two proposals were each rejected and they fell back on setting Alloa on its own. Therefore, I do not think that the Minister was right in suggesting that that was a gesture to local democracy. It was making the best of a bad job.

However, I accept that the Minister has carried out his task here on this very difficult and, from the Scottish point of view, very unpopular Bill in the best traditions of this House.

6.15 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, while I was naturally sorry that the noble and learned Lord was unable to accept any of my amendments, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking him for the trouble that he took in replying and in some cases in writing to me with additional assurances and information. I can only hope that his faith that social services will not suffer during the period of changeover will prove to be well-founded.

We have heard a great deal from various noble Lords about how no one in Scotland wants the Bill. With respect, I do not believe that to be altogether true. I do not think that anyone in the '70s wanted to change to a two-tier system and, from many points of view, it is very unsatisfactory, leading to buck-passing and duplication. It took quite a long time for people to adjust to that system, but, although most people tend to prefer the devil they are used to, I think that it will be very much easier to adjust to a single-tier authority than it was to do the opposite and that we shall have far more efficient and accountable local government as a result.

Finally, I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who mentioned how unhappy he was about the timetable being so tight. I have a sort of feeling that exactly the same applies to the timetable for a changeover of local government as applies to the timetable when you are building a house for getting the builders out and getting the furniture in. Whatever date you set, however far ahead, you will find when that day comes that the builders are still there. The only thing to do is to set a date and stick to it.

Lord Gray of Contin

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the Minister for the way in which he has taken the Bill through the House. There is no doubt in my mind that the good nature that he showed at all times—sometimes under considerable pressure —made a very great difference to the behaviour of noble Lords. As one who participated in one of the most controversial debates—that on the question of having one or two authorities for the Highlands—I am very glad that the Minister took my advice and resisted the amendment. I congratulate him on the way in which he did that.

Far be it from me to end this discussion on a controversial note, but in the interests of accuracy I should like to correct the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. If he examines Hansard, he will find in the record of the Division on the amendment on the question of having two Highlands authorities that of the 30 Peers who voted for the amendment only eight were Conservative, not 12. I record that purely for accuracy. Of course, there was a substantial increase on the number who voted for what the Government wanted, which was one authority. Whatever controversy may have been raised at that time, I am happy to be able to tell the House that the Highlands authorities are already getting together collectively in an effort to make this a success. On that note and with my thanks to my noble and learned friend, I wish the legislation which we are now passing every success.

The Earl of Minto

My Lords, it would be improper to suggest that this Bill is entirely welcomed in Scotland. However, having said that, I hope that within a very short period of time all the local authorities in Scotland will know what they have to face once the Bill has received Royal Assent. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will by then have taken note of one or two butterflies which are still floating around and be able to facilitate us in some small but important degree.

Those of us who are elected local government members and those who are employed in local government have a common purpose; that is, to serve the people. When we know what we have to face we shall come together and face it for the betterment of those whom we represent. I regret that to a certain extent we have not had that unanimity with the Government that I should have liked to see and that my local authority has shown. I am sure that that will come. While we may not feel too comfortable about many aspects of the Bill, I am certain that we shall put our duty first. I thank the noble and learned Lord the Minister of State and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for the great courtesy they have shown during the Bill's progress.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I join with others in paying tribute to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, and, in particular, the noble and learned Lord the Minister of State for the patient good humour shown in piloting the Bill through the House. It is a bad Bill, and therefore their achievement is all the greater. The Minister of State, as one would expect of him, was master of his brief. Within the framework of a bad Bill, from time to time he produced some persuasive arguments, and occasionally some startling information. When I was at my most rhetorical about the glories of directors of education, he nearly put me off my stroke completely by saying that directors of education had never needed professional qualifications. I refused to concede that at the time; I now concede it safely.

I was rash enough to say on Second Reading, when I had my first experience of a piece of major Scottish legislation in your Lordships' House, that, with all the representations we were receiving, Scotland was in no doubt at all about the usefulness of the House of Lords as a revising Chamber. I hope that we have done a little useful revising. I was even surprised to have an amendment accepted. It was so long ago that I cannot for the life of me now remember what it was. The Bill has not been a notable example of revising success in your lordships' Chamber. It remains a Bill about which we have many reservations. But we thank the noble and learned Lords for the way in which they have carried through the business.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I shall be brief, because I have played only a small part in the Bill. I do not believe that the part I did play pleased the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, as much as I hoped it would. In all the briefing that we have received, we have heard little from the countless thousands of people, many of whom live around where I live and where the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, lives, and the lands from where the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, comes, who are delighted that we are returning to a single-tier system of government in Scotland. Everyone knows who does what, and it is much easier for councillors and officials to be accountable.

There are many such people. There are many others, I am sure, who, once the Bill becomes an Act, will get together and do their best to ensure, as the people of Highland Region are clearly doing, that the Bill is a great success. The noble Earl, Lord Minto, has said that he believes local government will do that. I am sure that it will. Once the doubts have gone, I am sure any difficulties will be overcome to the best of everyone's ability. I am sure that we all look forward to the Bill being a success.

The Earl of Balfour

My Lords, I record my grateful thanks to my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser for the many letters he wrote to me on the many points on the Bill I have raised. I am much obliged to him for the trouble he took.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.